Tuesday, July 03, 2007

All (?) in the family

You would think that a question like, "Who is in your family?" would yield identitcal results from one family member to the next. Well, it doesn't. Who is considered a family member is subjective and can be unique to each member of the family.

When families blend and form stepfamilies, the answers get even more divergent. Consider the research below.

Stepfamily Living
Family Identity: Children and adults often define family membership differently. In one study, children and adults were asked to identify people they consider their family.
  • Less than 10% of children failed to mention a biological parent,
  • 31% did not include a residential stepparent in their family list.
  • They were also more likely to omit stepsiblings from the list (41%).
  • Just 15% of adults, on the other hand, neglected to list stepchildren.

Furstenburg, F.F. (1987), The new extended family. In K. Pasley & M. Ihinger-Tallman (Eds.), Remarriage and Stepparenting: Current research and theory (p. 42-64) New York: Guilford. Reported in Susan Stewart, Brave New Stepfamilies, 2007.

This is important to understand because it reveals that people in stepfamilies get familied at different rates. You can imagine the potential for conflict when a stepparent who has familied their stepchild tries to assert authority on a stepchild who has not familied the stepparent.

"Who are you to tell me what to do?" is likely to be the response.

So, the point here, I think, is that people get familied at different paces and that familization pricess must be respected.

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